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North Dakota Debates High Fence Hunting

March 8th, 2008

I tried to post this last night, but for some reason my WordPress hiccuped and deleted the whole thing.  I guess I will try to get it out again, though I am sure it will be a lot different than what I wrote up last night.

It appears that the Fair Chase Initiated Measure is to appear on the ballot this November.  A group called the United Sportsmen, held a town hall type meeting to allow both sides of the issue to express their opinions.  This seems to me to be a good idea, as there is much disagreement over this issue.  There was a pretty good turnout at this meeting in Jamestown, ND, as about 200 people attended.

On one side, supporters of the initiative argued that this practice is not really hunting.  After all, the animal is penned up behind a high fence, and doesn’t have much chance of escaping the hunters.  Statements were made such as “high fence is not fair chase” and “A guaranteed hunt is as unethical as you get.”  This is representative of many hunters across the country.

On the other side, the ranchers argued that this was an issue that had to do more with land rights, than with hunting.  They argued that the government would be taking too much control, and impeding their rights as land owners to step in and ban this type of hunting.  They argued that the animals on their ranches, behind their high fences were not taken from the wild, and therefore were not the property of the state.  These animals were in fact purchased by the landowners, and controlled like livestock.  They also pointed out that the animals were actually regulated by the state as livestock, and fell under the supervision of the Board of Animal Health.

The debate over this type of hunting has gone on for a long time, and each one of us as hunters have to decide if we want to participate.  Bryan, over at DeerPhD had an interesting post in his “What Would You Do?” series that addressed this very issue, and he had quite a bit of response to it.  While I was composing this post last night, I discovered that Tom, over at the Black Bear Blog had also posted about “Fair Chase” hunting.  Be sure to go over and read those posts if you haven’t yet.

But, with this post, I really want to delve into the idea of land rights.  Even if we as hunters decide that we don’t want to participate in hunting behind high fence, should we try to make it illegal through legislation?  Do we really want the government being able to step in and ban certain kinds of hunting?

My fear is that this is one of those “first step” types of legislation.  When this is banned, then the anti-hunting crowd will move on to other types until they get as much as they can (or all the hunting).  This is not the first time that this has happened.  There are cases of stopping hunting with hounds.  There are cases of stopping particular types of hunting, such as dove hunting.  These tactics are always escalated to the next level, the next species, and the next type of hunting.  The bad thing in some of these cases is that the anti-hunting crowd drums up the support of hunters to help them in their fight!  So, if they can find hunters who find hunting behind high fences distasteful, they can rope them into helping them ban one type of hunting.  What we will see happening is the effort to expand laws that are formed off of this legislation to limit other hunting opportunities.

But, some may say, the government already has the right to legislate what you do on your own property.  After all, you can’t grow drugs, or make Meth.  But, that is a different issue all together (though many will try to compare them).  If the government is allowed to come in and control what ranchers do in this case, it will not be long until they can control what they can do in all cases.  If they can stop one kind of hunting on your neighbors land, they can stop all hunting on your land!

My take on this is that we as hunters should not push for the eradication of this kind of hunting, even if we do not like it, or would not participate in it.   I think it will lead to other problems for us, and we will have a hard time stopping it.  Besides, if all hunters feel that high fence hunting shouldn’t be done, the easy way to get rid of it is to not go hunt there.  Let the market control it.  If no one hunts, these ranches would not be profitable.  If they are not profitable, they will close down.  The truth is, there is a market for it, and probably always will be.  This aspect is kind of a moot issue for me, because it is too cost prohibitive for me to participate.

I will make one comment about the practice of high fence hunting itself.  It seems to me that the size of the enclosure is important to the discussion.  The ranchers quoted in the Jamestown Sun Article claim that their ranches are between 600 and 2000 acres.  Personally, I rarely cover 600 acres in a day while hunting (and that includes a lot of still hunting).  2000 acres would be nearly impossible to cover.  Unless you were right beside the fence itself, it seems like it would be hard to know it was there, and wouldn’t affect your manner of hunting much at all. However, if the enclosure was only 20 acres, that would be a different story.

If I am missing the boat on this, show me why!  Here’s your chance to change my mind!

Source:  The Jamestown Sun 

11 Responses to “North Dakota Debates High Fence Hunting”

  1. Great post! I agree that a high-fence hunt may not pose the same challenge as a true open-terrain hunt, but I would never for a second deny anyone’s right to offer such a hunt, or participate in one. This is more a matter about bragging rights than hunting rights.

  2. Chief Stillaughing Says:
    March 8th, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Perhaps there should be a designation of how much land can be fenced and still be considered fair-chase. Seems to me that 3.125 square miles (2000 acres) providing there is adequate cover and the animals are not pan fed (lured in from the outward fencing) by daily feeding, then all the regular skills would be needed. However if there were only two or three hundred acres, it seems to me that would change considerably. One place I investigated bragged that it had 45 acres fenced. That, friends, is not for me.

  3. I think you are right on target

  4. I think you’re right on as well. I wont participate in high fenced hunting, but I am not about to tell someone else that they can’t.

    Great post Kris.

  5. Interesting. Thank you.

  6. Fellows,

    If I had the money I would buy the 2600 acres available near me, high fence it, dig a moat around it (stocked with gators) and live and work on the land until I died. The market determines what is successful and what is not. The real problem is the lack of state and federally owned land available to hunters. That’s why the market for high fenced hunts has become so great. As suburbs encroach on huntable tracts, the opposition to hunting intensifies, and the value of that land grows exponentially.

    No easy solutions.

    Albert A Rasch
    The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

  7. I’m interested in the ethics of high fenced hunting and i was going to use this article to help my argument in a research paper im doing but i need to know the authors full name..if anyone could help me id greatly appreciate it

  8. Kalan, thanks for stopping by. I tried to email you, but it bounced back. My name is Kris Brewer, and you can contact me if you need to at: kris AT jakesoutdoors DOT com.

    i would be interested in reading your research paper when you get it done, if you don’t mind sharing it with me!

  9. Thanks alot Mr. Brewer, and I will send my research paper to you when it’s finished. i think this article will help me out.

  10. mark wagoner Says:
    October 12th, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    hello, my name is mark and i am a avid hunter. I live in montana we have great hunting here. our state is about as fair chase as you can get, no baits, no dogs, except certian cougar huntung times. I recently bought my first hunt in wisconsin. a red stag hunt. it was 100 acres of land, planted with so many trees I thought i was in a rain forest. ( about 100,000 trees on the farm) I bow hunted a red stag and had a vary hard hunt getting a shot for my bow.
    I have always been a ardent hater of outfitters, and fences. here’s a new way I learned to look at reality. on the milk river where I live we have great whitetail hunting. our farms are 100- 300 acres some bigger. when i public hunt my whitetails I can hunt on ( for names sake) joes place its 125 acres. when the deer runs west or north it is in (for name sake) rock creek outfitters privit hunting farms. when it runs north it runs into antalope outfitters privit farms. now if it runs south that old lady dont allow no hunting at all. so i lose my buck, some rich out of stater shoots it and im shooting does. if i had 3500 dollors i can chase it all over and shoot it because 75 % of land is outfited 10 % privite and 15 % over hunted. but never less we have the ” greatest hunting on the planet” we have millions of acres of public land the problem is the big animals like the rivers lakes and not the desert. we always manage to get our bucks and plenty of deer shot. but each farm is fenced 100-300 acres and thats what i can hunt so when i shot my reddeer( it was a 356 class sci)$4500 A HUGE TROPHY WITH A BOW. I was vary proud of it and i never saw the fence, but by the time i could get a clear shot, i could count on, my nerves was shot, it was just a hundred acre. but i can get fair chase here at home by driving down the road looking sometimes up to 5 miles away for a big mulie drive 800 yards from him get out and walk 100 yards take a 700 yd shot( tired of the easy close ones) and the 37 inch mulie i just shot made boone and crocket. wasnt even a challange.
    This is considered fair chase and many people spot and stalk this way. The way i learned to look at it is this way . These farms are monitered they have to give test to vets on regular basis. if there is desiease found the herd is slaughtered but if there isn’t it exist.i am starting to think that i would rather hunt the fence my red stag had no cwd, tb, as a mater of fact was perfect health. tested upon death. we are on of the few vary few states that has a healthy hunting population. so what is all the talk about disease. every state has it in thier hunting population except a few.
    if we allow the goverment to regulate fenced farms we give up our right to free interprise. we had the big oil spills killed all kinds of stuff should we allow the goverment to stop all ships? then why allow them to regulate our hunting weather u like it or not does not matter, i enjoyed it. by the way i am eating my red stag as well. had i paid the 10,000 to go to argentina to hunt free range i couldnt bring it home and eat it.

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